Jonglei Canal project: a threat to National Security and a betrayal of the people of South Sudan

 

The National Salvation Front (NAS) has strongly come out to criticise the resumption of the unpopular Jonglei Canal project, which risks draining the Sudd wetlands, as a serious National Security threat and a betrayal of the people of South Sudan.

NAS also questioned the timing, legitimacy and credibility of the catastrophic project that will drain dry of the Sudd Wetlands – a UNESCO protected site – saying “any project that involves the usage of its [the protected site] water resources requires credible, transparent and independent international research and impact assessment to ensure safety and its sustainability”.

NAS made these statements in a press release issued on May 10, 2022 entitled Re: Jonglei Canal and signed by Mr Suba Samuel – the official Spokesman.

Press Release FullText

The Leadership and members of the National Salvation Front (NAS) have been following with great concern the intention of the Government of South Sudan to resume the excavation of the unpopular Jonglei Canal Project.ย 

In December 2021, the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGoNU) Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation of the Republic of South Sudan, Mr Manawa Peter Gatkouth (SPLM-IO), presented a proposal on Jonglei Canal development project to the South Sudan Transitional Council of Ministers for approval.ย 

The controversial Jonglei Canal Project was activated in 1978, by the government of former President Jaafar Mohammed Nimeiri of Sudan and was set for implementation without any scientific study of the environmental, economic and social impacts of the project on the people of South Sudan. Between 1978-1983, 240 km (67%) out of the total 360km of the canal was excavated.ย 

 

The Nile waters and the Sudd wetlands constitute an important resource to the existence and survival of the people of South Sudan. For this reason, tampering with the Sudd area therefore constitutes a national security threat for the people of South Sudan

 

Jonglei Canal Project was totally rejected by all the people of South Sudan, including politicians, intellectuals, students and concerned groups of people from all walks of life. Because of this rejection of the project by the people of South Sudan, the Sudan Peopleโ€™s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), halted the excavation of the Canal in 1984 by destroying the machine used for the canalโ€™s excavation. The current intention of Salva Kiirโ€™s regime to resume the excavation of the Jonglei Canal, contradicts the [historic] stand taken during the SPLM/A struggle.ย 

The Sudd area, one of the worldโ€™s largest wetlands, is the largest freshwater wetland in the Nile Basin. The excavation of Jonglei Canal is intended to divert the water of the White Nile from the Sudd with the resultant impact of draining the Sudd area of its waters. The Jonglei Project, if it were completed, would have dried up the Sudd wetlands and it would have had adverse environmental, social, economic and health impacts on the people and territory of South Sudan and beyond to the East African Region. According to expertsโ€™ reports, the consequences of draining the Sudd area will include the collapse of the fisheries sector, drying up of agricultural and grazing lands, a drop in the groundwater levels and reduction in rainfall water; and worst of all starvation, and loss of both animal and human lives. The draining of the Sudd area is likely to have adverse environmental effects comparable to the drying up of Lake Chad, which is found in Chad and West Africa or the draining of the Aral Sea in Central Asia. The Aral Sea, located in Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan, shrank as a result of the diversion of its waters for purposes of irrigation. Experts on Nile water resources have warned of the likely permanent negative impacts of digging of Jonglei Canal.ย 

Based on the foregoing background information, NAS would like to state the following to the people of South Sudan and the International Community:ย 

  1. The National Salvation Front (NAS) condemns and rejects the unilateral decision by the regime of Salva Kiir to restart the excavation of the Jonglei Canal.ย 
  2. The Nile waters and the Sudd wetlands constitute an important resource to the existence and survival of the people of South Sudan. For this reason, tampering with the Sudd area therefore constitutes a national security threat for the people of South Sudan. Any draining of the Sudd and diversion of any water of the White Nile is, therefore, a betrayal of the people of South Sudan.ย 
  3. The Sudd area is a United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Ramsar Convention protected site. Any project that involves the use of its water resources requires credible, transparent and independent international research and impact assessment to ensure safety and sustainability.ย 
  4. The top priority for the people of South Sudan now is to achieve sustainable peace, repatriate the refugees and resettle the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in their original places, putting in place mechanisms for security and the rule of law, delivery of essential services etc. and therefore, this is not the time to engage in such a huge project, without any scientific studies, as the Jonglei Canal determines the lives and fate of the present and future generations of South Sudanese.ย 
  5. Since the people of South Sudan are currently affected by internal conflicts and civil war, and more than half of the population has fled the country to seek refuge and others are internally displaced persons (IDPs), and in the absence of a legitimate government in the country, lack of national constitution that reflects the will of the people on such an important issue like the Jonglei Canal, the decision by Salva Kiirโ€™s regime to resume the digging of the Jonglei Canal at this time is not in the interest of the people of South Sudan.
  6. Finally, NAS urges the people of South Sudan to remain firm, united and to stand up for their rights and duty to the current and future generations.ย 

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